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The Declaration of Internet Freedom

As we celebrate our Independence Day, we are supporting the Declaration of Internet Freedom, a new campaign that was launched this morning.

Preamble: We believe that a free and open Internet can bring about a better world. To keep the Internet free and open, we call on communities, industries and countries to recognize these principles. We believe that they will help to bring about more creativity, more innovation and more open societies.

We are joining an international movement to defend our freedoms because we believe that they are worth fighting for.

Let’s discuss these principles — agree or disagree with them, debate them, translate them, make them your own and broaden the discussion with your community — as only the Internet can make possible.

Join us in keeping the Internet free and open.

This is the beginning of a movement, that will be shaped by those who choose to participate. Join the conversation! Some of the sites discussing the Declaration of Internet Freedom include Reddit, TechDirt, The Verge, Center for Democracy and Technology, and Cheezburger.

Josh Levy discusses the backstory of this Declaration on HuffPo while Sascha Meinrath and Craig Aaron discuss the need for the Declaration at Slate.com.

We strongly encourage organizations, businesses, and individuals to sign on.

War for the Web: Let's Get it Made

Given the high profile network neutrality and even higher profile SOPA/PIPA fights, we are starting to see more interest from filmmakers and documentarians to explore the Internet, access to the Internet, and the policy battles around it.

I just learned of a project that impressed me, War for the Web. Talking to the folks behind it, I am excited about their approach and who they plan to tap for expertise.

We’re at a crossroads in the history of the Internet. War for the Web explores this digital frontier, seeking answers to the future by delving into its past. We will investigate the beginnings of the Internet, its exponential growth in the past decade, and how this phenomenal culture of innovation—which spawned advances such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon—may be in jeopardy.

They are fundraising on KickStarter, so if you want to see this project happen, considering kicking in. They have one more week to hit their goal - so spread the message.

I like the idea of demystifying how the Internet works. The less people know about the Internet, the more likely they are to believe that only massive companies can provide it to them.

70 Groups Call on Congress to Drop SOPA / PIPA

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance joined many other groups in signing a letter calling on Congress to cease considering the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and instead initiate a balanced process meant to seriously consider a proper way to defend copyrights that does not threaten the open Internet. In short, we want a process that considers the rights and desires of all Americans, not a few corporations with the best lobbyists.

From Public Knowledge:

“This letter shows that the opposition to SOPA and PIPA came from an extraordinarily diverse coalition of well-informed groups and companies who understood perfectly well what was in the bills. This was not an industry-led movement, it was an Internet user movement,” said Ernesto Falcon, congressional affairs director for Public Knowledge. “Contrary to what Hollywood executives are saying, the sole reason why the Internet blackout occurred was because the public was concerned by these over-reaching bills that had no business being considered.”

From the letter [pdf]:

Now is the time for Congress to take a breath, step back, and approach the issues from a fresh perspective. A wide variety of important concerns have been expressed – including views from technologists, law professors, international human rights groups, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and above all, individual Internet users. The concerns are too fundamental and too numerous to be fully addressed through hasty revisions to these bills. Nor can they be addressed by closed door negotiations among a small set of inside the-beltway stakeholders.

Furthermore, Congress must determine the true extent of online infringement and, as importantly, the economic effects of that activity, from accurate and unbiased sources, and weigh them against the economic and social costs of new copyright legislation. Congress cannot simply accept industry estimates regarding economic and job implications of infringement given the Government Accountability Office’s clear finding in 2010 that previous statistics and quantitative studies on the subject have been unreliable.

Stop the Real Government Takeover of the Internet

I've censored the following, in protest of a bill that gives any corporation and the US government the power to censor the internet--a bill that could pass THIS WEEK. To see the uncensored text, and to stop internet censorship, visit: http://americancensorship.org/posts/15925/uncensor

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Uncensor This

The Real Government Takeover of the Internet

If you aren't familiar with SOPA - the "Stop Online Piracy Act" or its companion in the Senate (called PIPA or Protect IP), you should be. This is legislation that would allow the US government to require Internet Service Providers block web sites without due process. Sascha Meinrath and James Losey from the New America Foundation explain the threat in Slate:

The interconnected nature of the Internet fostered the growth of online communities such as Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. These sites host our humdrum daily interactions and serve as a public soapbox for our political voice. Both the PROTECT IP Act and SOPA would create a national firewall by censoring the domain names of websites accused of hosting infringing copyrighted materials. This legislation would enable law enforcement to take down the entire tumblr.com domain due to something posted on a single blog. Yes, an entire, largely innocent online community could be punished for the actions of a tiny minority.

If you think this scenario is unlikely, consider what happened to Mooo.com earlier this year. Back in February, the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security seized 10 domains during a child-porn crackdown called “Operation Protect Our Children.” Along with this group of offenders, 84,000 more entirely innocent sites were tagged with the following accusatory splash page: “Advertisement, distribution, transportation, receipt, and possession of child pornography constitute federal crimes that carry penalties for first time offenders of up to 30 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution." Their only crime was guilt by association: They were all using the Mooo.com domain.

From our point of view, what is most interesting is not who is pushing this bill (Hollywood and the usual suspects that tried to kill the VCR because it would obviously destroy the movie industry) but who is not resisting. After all, whenever the issue of network neutrality comes up, the big telecom companies pay a bunch of organizations like Americans for Prosperity to create astroturf movements to oppose a "government takeover of the Internet." Of course, network neutrality is the opposite - a set of rules where the government requires corporations not dictate how subscribers use the Internet.

But here we have a literal government takeover of the Internet. Should SOPA pass, the federal government would decide what sites are allowed to be accessed by Americans and which cannot. The evidence thus far suggests that more sites will be harmed by incompetence as opposed to intentional political censorship but the entire approach is troubling, to say the least.

To get a sense of which elected officials are supporting this legislation, here are the cosponsors for HR 3261 in the House and cosposors for S 968 in the Senate. More details on how you can be involved at Demand Progress.

Many of the organizations who have strongly fought for an open Internet with strong network neutrality rules are pouring resources into stopping SOPA. This includes Free Press's Save the Internet, Public Knowledge, and others. Some of the network neutrality opponents, like the Wall Street Journal and Cato Institute have also warned against SOPA but other groups -- like Americans for Prosperity have been fairly silent. The next time AT&T and Time Warner Cable-sponsored groups start fear-mongering around policies that threaten to bring competition against their corporate sponsors, we must ask them where they were when the future of the Internet was truly threatened.

The Future of Music organization has reviewed an alternative to SOPA that may be a much better approach.

Below is a video about SOPA.

Image credit: monkeyc on Flickr.

Video: